Composer Alex Stephenson (b. 1990, Philadelphia, PA) has recently collaborated with artists including the New Fromm Players, the Flux Quartet, Duo Axis, HOCKET, and the La Jolla Symphony. He has received commissions from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Breckenridge Music Festival, and the Royaumont Voix Nouvelles Festival, and his music has also been featured at the Tanglewood Music Center, the ISCM World New Music Days, the Composers Conference, and the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, among others. His work has been praised as “masterfully orchestrated” and exhibiting “sonic beauty” (San Diego Union-Tribune).

Alex’s music stems from a deep-rooted lyrical impulse, combined with a keen interest in the ways we perceive sound and in musical repertoires both old and new. With each project, he seeks to intertwine these diverse influences in novel ways, curating sonic worlds that feel simultaneously fresh and familiar. He works in a variety of contexts, from the acoustic to the electronic, from concert music to sound installations and interdisciplinary collaborations.

His string quartet Bloom—which was selected to represent the United States at the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days and was a prizewinner in competitions through the League of Composers, Hausmann Quartet, and Charles Ives Music Festival—places vigorous, passionate bursts of energy into dialogue with sonorous, gently pulsating harmonies. His alternately playful and meditative Chamber Concerto, exploring new methods of combining microtonal synthesizers and electronics with an acoustic ensemble, was premiered by colleagues at UC San Diego under the baton of Steven Schick. Most recently, the San Diego Union-Tribune described Alex’s orchestral work An Elemental Music—commissioned and premiered by the La Jolla Symphony under conductor Michael Gerdes—as a “wonderful new work” that “could be easily programmed by any American orchestra.”

A committed educator, Alex currently serves as Instructional Assistant Professor of Music Theory & Composition at Illinois State University, where he teaches courses in theory and analysis, composition, orchestration, and electroacoustic music. Previously, as an instructor of record at UC San Diego, he received the university-wide Barbara and Paul Saltman Excellent Teaching Award.

Alex’s recent music analysis article, on harmony and politics in contemporary music, appears in Music Theory Online.

Alex holds a Ph.D. in composition (2023) from the University of California San Diego. He was a US-UK Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar (2014-15), studying at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, and earned a master’s degree (2017) from the Eastman School of Music and a bachelor’s degree (2012) from the University of Chicago.

Recent highlights:

  • An Elemental Music commissioned and premiered by the La Jolla Symphony, cond. Michael Gerdes, March 2023 (review)
  • Appointed to the music theory & composition faculty of Illinois State University, August 2022
  • Forgotten Song, commissioned by the Breckenridge Music Festival, premiered in Breckenridge, CO, August 2022
  • Article on overtone structures and politics in contemporary music published in Music Theory Online, Volume 28, no. 2, June 2022 (link)
  • Ph.D. dissertation events at UC San Diego, May 2022: premiere of Chamber Concerto (UC San Diego musicians, cond. Steven Schick), performances of Adrift (Duo Axis) and Three Reflections (Shaoai Ashley Zhang), and first in-person presentation of the sound installation Landscape with Changes (with lighting design by Jessica C. Flores)
  • Reflection featured on HOCKET’s album #What2020SoundsLike, February 2022
  • Three Reflections premiered by Shaoai Ashley Zhang, February 2022
  • Cantus named runner-up in the RED NOTE New Music Festival Composition Competition, December 2021
  • Miranda Cuckson’s performance of Soif featured on Score Follower, September 2021 (video)
  • Bloom selected for the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days, Shanghai and Nanning, China (performance postponed due to COVID-19), August 2021 (more info)
  • Landscape with Changes and Music for Car Radios presented live as part of the UC San Diego Department of Music’s “(not quite) Springfest” online event, with original video art by Anqi Liu, April 2021 (more info)
  • Bloom nominated to the World Music Days in China by the League of Composers and the ISCM Miami Chapter, March 2021
  • Bloom wins the Steven R. Gerber Second Prize in the League of Composers/ISCM Composition Competition, November 2020
  • Bloom named a prizewinner in the Hausmann Quartet Quarantine Composers Competition – A 6 feet apart production, November 2020 (more info)
  • Reflection commissioned by HOCKET for the #What2020SoundsLike miniatures project, August 2020 (video premiere, more info)

Photo credit: Jessica Flores

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